The ordinarily vociferous National Rifle Association has remained noticeably silent on social media in the wake of last Friday's gun massacre at a school in the United States and other recent deadly shootings in Alabama and Las Vegas. Its behavior could be fueling its opposition, says a prominent social media analyst.
#NRA was a trending topic on Twitter for several days following the school shooting, as a nation mourned the deaths of children and teachers in the suburb of Newtown, Connecticut. Tweets responded to the tragedy with a fusion of anger, disbelief, and grief - much of which was directed squarely at the gun rights advocacy group.
"Social media is just that, it's social. If the NRA was to make a statement, it would by default beget responses, which would in the spirit of social media, result in the need for ongoing dialogue. This is an incredibly charged conversation and the NRA believes that silence is the best response. This way of thinking however is outdated in a connected society. In social media, silence also speaks volumes," said Brian Solis an author and principal analyst with Altimeter Group.
The NRA's last tweets were touting a gun giveaway contest, permits for 1 million concealed weapons in Florida, and the number of Facebook Likes reaching 1.7 million, Solis noted. "What's worse is that the NRA hid its Facebook Page to avoid the conversation as if doing so would silence anti-NRA sentiment."
"In aggregate, by not responding and intentionally hiding its page on Facebook, the group is saying that they chose not to be part of the conversation, which in of itself is telling. This behavior only fuels its opponents rather than silencing them and conveys insensitivity to the friends and family of those who lost their lives to this tragic accident and to Americans in general. However, any statement is likely to be taking out of context at this point and the group likely weighed the short and long term outcomes of silence versus empathy. At some point however, the NRA will have to make a statement as its opposition is using social media to build a case against gun laws as they stand today," he added.
Whether you are for, against, or indifferent toward the NRA - the silence of this powerful national organization speaks volumes and is an example of how much social media can influence the national dialog.
(image credit: David Worthington)